Niagara Gazette

October 3, 2013

Starpoint's Mangani makes tennis a family affair

By Mike Meiler mike.meiler@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — On the morning of February 22, 2002, Jim Mangani put his young daughter, Gillian, in bed with her mother, Stacey, before he left his Town of Lockport home and headed off to work at the New York Power Authority.

It was part of Mangani’s daily routine, and Gillian would watch television in bed while Stacey woke up to start her day.

That morning, Stacey never woke up.

Stacey, a diabetic, arose just long enough to take an insulin shot before falling back to sleep. Without food to balance the injection, her blood sugar spiraled as she slipped into unconsciousness.

When Gillian tried to wake her, Stacey didn’t budge. Miraculously, 4-year-old Gillian ran to the phone and dialed 911, explained that she couldn’t wake up her mother, then remained on the phone with the dispatcher until help arrived.

“When we saw an ambulance or something we would always say someone must’ve needed help and called 9-1-1,” Stacey said. “It was really something we always tried to prepare her — not expecting at 4 that she would do it — but so that’d she know to call 9-1-1 if someone needed help.

“Kids are like sponges; you never really know what they’ve picked up until they ... do something like Gillian did.”

Stacey has a copy of the recording of the dispatch call. She said when she plays it, people can’t believe how calm Gillian sounded.

“They asked her, ‘Is the front door locked?’ and she said, ‘No, but I can go unlock it,’ “ Stacey said. “She comes back up and said, ‘I unlocked the door and put my kitty in the basement so he doesn’t get in the way.’ “

“I remember opening the door, (the medics) all kind of rushed in and I told them where she was,” said Gillian, now 16 years old. “I remember when they were up in the bedroom, I just sat in the corner of the room. They were all over her. It was scary.”

Stacey was unconscious because of her low blood sugar and could’ve slipped into a diabetic coma had Gillian not called 911. Because of the call, authorities were able to balance her blood sugar and release her from the hospital that same day.

“It could’ve been worse, absolutely,” Stacey said.

The following week, Gillian was given and honorary badge and certificate of recognition from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department. Stories were published in local papers and pieces aired on news stations. Gillian and Stacey were featured on AM Buffalo and had an invitation to appear on The Jenny Jones Show, a nationally-syndicated morning show, but passed due to a scheduling conflict.

Twelve years later, that day in 2002 rarely comes up. Gillian Mangani is a junior at Starpoint High School, a scholar-athlete who plays tennis and is a member of the National Honor Society and the school band, where she plays first flute. She also takes vocal lessons and performs in singing recitals.

On the court, Mangani has two losses in three years of singles play. She broke onto the Starpoint varsity team as an eighth grader, took off her freshman year and rejoined the team for the past two seasons.

Stacey and Jim are both longtime tennis players, and both play matches within the United States Tennis Association. Gillian watched them from a young age, then picked up a racket of her own at 8 years old when she started taking lessons with Chuck Marczak, a tennis instructor and family friend.

“I noticed right away that she had coaching,” said Starpoint tennis coach Jesse Smith. “She had very correct strokes, which is something you don’t normally see from a young girl in eighth grade. It was apparent right away she was going to be one of the varsity players.”

Smith said Mangani has a reputation for playing long, marathon matches, which makes her record more impressive. He said her timid personality disappears on the court.

“She believes she owns the match and she’s not letting you take it,” Smith said. “She’s tenacious and persistent, and when she needs to be she’s aggressive.

“You won’t see that socially — she’s the nicest kid. But I wouldn’t advise you to get on the tennis court with her.”

And after what they’ve been through, it’s no surprise Mangani’s parents are her biggest fans.

“They’re at almost every match,” Smith said. “She has a rooting section every time.”

Follow Niagara Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.